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Industries: Specialty & Other Finance – First

Philip Middleton & team, BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research

The buy side says: “Good recommendations. Excellent client service.”

BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research is back in first place. The firm dominated the sector from 2002 to 2004 and from 2006 to 2009, and this year London-­based Philip ­Middleton leads the three-­member team up one notch to reclaim the crown. “Philip has a balanced approach, weighing the theses and risks of his recommendations. He benefits from his long experience of covering the sector,” notes one loyalist. The analysts follow 18 companies, two more than last year at this time, and have been bullish on volume-­trading-related companies such as stock exchanges, which often prosper when market conditions are difficult. Their earnings held up relatively well during the credit crisis, observes Middleton, 51. As for other aspects of the space: “Retail demand has been difficult at present, and the industry is going through a period of change, with a secular shift away from mainstream active asset classes toward more passive investing and more advanced investment styles,” he says. The researchers are advising clients to favor companies with “decent fundamentals; attractive valuations; and distinctive, differentiating products, services or capabilities,” Middleton says.

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